SIMULEX Procedures


The purpose of politico-military simulation exercises is to examine how policy issues are evaluated and acted upon and to generate data and which can be used to develop recommendations for senior policy makers in potential future crisis situations. Simulation exercises provide a unique opportunity to inform key decision-makers about existing or emerging security risks, threats, and issues, to identify problems and opportunities in national security policy decision-making, and to expose future leaders to realistic international challenges.

Simulation exercises have been widely and successfully used in the military, civilian government, academic, and even the business communities for many years. They have been proven to offer ideal opportunities for those engaged in national security policy development and/or implementation to:

  • Pool collective expertise;
  • Gain valuable knowledge about the region and cultures where the hypothetical crisis is unfolding;
  • Shed light on intangible or ill-defined problems;
  • Combine widely disparate factors and approaches, such as military, political, economic, and ideological;
  • Expose players to diverse opinions and options;
  • Include competition and interaction in policy analysis;
  • Identify and anticipate future national security problems;
  • Promote greater understanding among policy makers of each other's perspectives, interests and objectives.

A strict policy of non-attribution applies to all players’ remarks and comments during a simulation exercise. Adherence to this policy promotes an environment conducive to candid discussion, and fosters the presentation of innovative solutions to complex problems.

Players are encouraged to take full advantage of the opportunities simulation exercises offer. Scenarios are usually written to be somewhat provocative in order to facilitate discussion of important issues that may have greater or lesser degrees of plausibility and probability in the real world. The scenario is designed to sensitize players to the key issues, dilemmas, and constraints, challenges and opportunities that could arise in an actual crisis situation. It is essential that teams and players align their strategies and other responses based on the scenario -- In other words do not fight the scenario however much there may be disagreement with its premises or assumptions!

Events depicted in the simulation may or may not resemble those in the real world. More important for the purposes of the organizers and participants in this exercise is the opportunity to better understand how participating countries and organizations might make conflict prevention and crisis management decisions.


The SIMULEX exercise is “an operating model of reality,” drastically reduced in scope and limited in time. It allows participants to play roles as decision-makers on the international scene, and to experience the problems, dilemmas and processes of managing a crisis or resolving a conflict. SIMULEX is an opportunity to put concepts into practice and to share with one’s peers an experience not normally available outside the policy community.

Politico-military simulation illuminates and examines escalation, escalation control, de-escalation, diplomacy, intelligence, the roll of military power and other capabilities, communication, and decision-making in crisis situations. Despite the fact that the “real world” context of international behavior is missing, there is still intense personal involvement in handling the decisions and actions called for within specified time limits. At the interpersonal level there is an opportunity to observe the processes of situation definition, information search, risk taking, group compromise, and policy formulation. Simultaneously, at the inter-team level, such interactions as bargaining, negotiation, and the communication of intent, commitment, and resolve are present. It is a useful methodology for generating new hypotheses, and for learning and testing the policy planning process. Simulation is a technique for generating measurable insights, and frequently dramatizes the importance of communications and the role of the unanticipated.

It is not a goal of the exercise to devise one or more solutions to the particular scenario of SIMULEX, to be applied to current or future real world situations. Such exercise play, even by experts, may have little true significance for any real future situation. The exercise is not predictive, nor is its purpose to practice actual contingency planning for any particular nation. It is not intended to point the finger at individuals by name and/or parties or groups or to attribute positions to them in the record of the game. Instead, we have several objectives:


  • to gain a greater appreciation of factors underlying national goals, strategies, policies and to understand international concerns and options in the presence of a threat to security;
  • to achieve an awareness of internal and external pressures, relationships, and obstacles in crisis decision-making, i.e., performing under stress;
  • to experience some of the problems and constraints confronting real world decision-makers in allocating resources to translate national goals into specific international policies and courses of action;
  • to learn about the advantages and limitations of simulation as a learning tool.


SIMULEX uses a simulated crisis situation (hypothetical scenario), involving real countries, historical background, current events, and projections about the future. The scenario projects an imaginary conflict environment into the future, to which SIMULEX teams must respond because of the of the significant issues and interests at stake. However, this will not be a “zero sum” game; there is no expected clear cut winner or loser even though one team may be more successful in advancing its security interests during the exercise.

A general situation of conflict with the expectation of escalation is presented in the scenario. There are 5 groups of players in the scenario:

CONTROL TEAM - A “Control Team” acts as umpire and information resource, and is the channel of communication for interaction among player teams. Information passed from the Control team is to be accepted as truth for the duration of the simulation. Individual members of the Control Team will communicate with the Country Team and forward the Country Team's moves to the entire Control Team.

MEDIA TEAM - A "Media team" is used by both the Control team as well as Country teams to communicate messages via print or video.  Any press releases from the Control Team will be considered as truth data to be used to further the simulation.  Press releases from Country Teams could be accepted as statements of policy, propaganda or true intentions. To ensure teams are kept abreast of simulation developments, a running log of media events will be transmitted on a simulated news network webpage. 

Media team members are considered neutral to all Country Teams, will not be used to gather intelligence and should be granted access to team rooms at the discretion of the Country Team. Media members will be clearly identified by their press badges. 

DOCUMENTARY FILM CREW - There will be a select documentary film crew that will also be considered neutral. They will be clearly identified, but unlike the media team will have unfettered access to all areas of SIMULEX for the entire exercise. The purpose of the documentary is to provide a short film for training and an accurate debrief of events that transpired during the simulation. They are not gathering intelligence and will not be used for this purpose.

COUNTRY TEAM - Players will be assigned to "Country Teams" to simulate the roles of the principal figures, factors, or forces which could be expected to play a significant role in the situation. Roles will be identified; objectives, policies, and contingency plans summarized; and actions taken over successive “move periods.” Communication between the Country Teams and the Control Team will be via Google Chat. Within the team, one player will be a facilitator and will have access to a pre-established account. 

SENIOR MENTORS - Additionally, within each Country Team room, there will be a Senior Mentor who is part of the Control Team.  Although this individual is not part of the Country Team, their purpose is to provide guidance and direction to the Country Team. Additionally, the Senior Mentors will have their own lines of communication with the Control Team.

As much real background information will be used as time allows, and players are expected to immerse themselves in the situation and play their parts as imaginatively and accurately as possible. Role-playing does not mean emulation of the policy-making style of known political figures, but rather adapting one’s own optimal strategy for the crisis as it unfolds, within the limits of historical plausibility and technical feasibility.

Play develops through reaction to moves and information exchanged among the teams, with time between moves simulating the actual passage of time, thus allowing for the assimilation of information as the basis for new estimates and events. Control may “steer” events in a given direction to emphasize certain predetermined learning objectives by introducing new information, unrepresented parties, or acts of God. However, as far as possible, Control permits free play to develop in accordance with team interaction; thus, team members must “live with” and “be responsible” for the results of their decisions.

Realism in the feasibility of moves is an essential ingredient of successful play. For example, SIMULEX will work only if the teams work within and in response to the scenario. An effective player, must try to identify realistically with his or her assigned role.


The role of the Control Team is to integrate the information and proposed actions from all sources and mesh them into a balanced, rational synthesis of events. This creates the new situation for the next move period, reflecting the implications and conditions created by the strategies of the playing teams. Control represents all governments not designated as the playing teams, public opinion, and national intelligence capabilities of governments represented.

One facet of the operation of Control, which must be understood, is that Control, not the team, specifies the outcome of any planned and ordered action. For instance, if a team orders its armed forces to make a particular move by sending appropriate messages to the necessary addressees, Control, rather than the team, will announce to appropriate parties the results of the ordered action. The team makes the policy decisions; Control implements them and determines their outcome(s). Control does not judge “right” and “wrong” moves, but does have the authority (rarely exercised in practice) to rule out moves on the grounds of implausibility, or that may counter pre-determined objectives.


Communication may be less than perfect and immediate, but this is also very realistic. Not all the desired information or assistance will always be available—this will test your ability to “make do” in a crisis. Finally, all reasonable recommendations for improvement are welcome.


  1. General: Exercise decisions are made by each team during the specified “Move periods,” and transmitted to the Control team which will communicate results to all parties concerned. At the beginning of Move 1, each team will develop a strategy based on the need to respond to the crisis, challenges and threats.  Action “Move periods” will commence with a current summary of latest events provided by control. Decisions to take action will be communicated by means of messages from the Country teams and passed through the Control team. Action periods and game time flow may be discontinuous, depending partially on results of the interaction of teams, as determined by Control. “Move periods” may last up to 3 hours. There will be three such periods, with breaks in between.
  2. Playing Teams: In this exercise the participants are divided into teams; these playing teams represent the major states and other units concerned with potential action to resolve the crisis described in the scenario.

    Each team is free to organize itself to carry out crisis decision-making, and provide for functional as well as national representation: e.g., diplomatic, economic, military, propaganda, etc. The final organization of each team will be evaluated for effectiveness in the final critique.

    The members of playing teams are expected to share equitably the responsibility for preparation of team strategy and actions. With only a relatively short time available for teams to analyze their problems and reach consensus, it may not be possible to achieve unanimity. This of course parallels real-life decision-making. If an individual team member feels strongly about his or her own position, a “dissent” may be filed with Control (see a controller if this becomes an issue). 
  3. Strategy Development and Action Move Periods: All playing teams are free to choose the general strategies they wish to follow, within the constraints imposed by the scenario and the requirement of plausibility. Teams are free to change or adopt a “deviant” strategy if necessary, and are not confined to actual past strategies of their assigned countries, but must communicate changes to Control before implementation.
  4. Communications: All communications will be channeled through Control. This is necessary for the orderly development of the game, to avoid duplication and chaos, and so that Control may be kept informed and avoid peripheral tangents detracting from primary exercise considerations. Approval will be expedited, but communications “delays” are both possible and realistic because they take place in real world crises.
  5. Intelligence: Understandably, not all the detailed information required will be available about the situation and countries involved. But then, in reality, it never is. Players may use their outside knowledge of actual conditions in the area as still existing in the exercise unless specified to be different by the Scenario or Control. Lacking knowledge, use your imagination to make reasonable and adequate assumptions, identifying them as such if important to the game. If all else fails, you may request specific information from Control (by message). Control should use its best judgment in making available intelligence, which might reasonably be expected to be collectible, and also in leaking that information, to the press or others, which might be expected to be leaked. Players should refrain from seeking “unofficial” information; i.e., by eavesdropping or rifling a rival team’s documents between moves. Only members of Control are trusted agents and may observe team discussions.
  6. World Press: Members of Control will be designated as “World Press Representatives.” They may be treated as reporters would be—granted access and information when to your advantage, and denied it if believed harmful. They will prepare brief “news items” to be issued as Control sees fit (usually at the start of each period) listing events and stated positions or intentions of teams (not necessarily truthful). (Control’s scenario additions will be separately identified and will be accepted as fact.) The “Press” will exercise its own initiative to dig out stories on what is happening and why, and seek interviews as well as briefings. Their views and analyses will form a separate part of the record and a basis for evaluation and comment in the critique.
  7. Critique: After the end of play is announced by Control, all participants will gather in the Auditorium for a critique and evaluation session, which is a required and very important part of the exercise. It will be a time for full disclosure and discussion of team strategies, actions, and reasoning. It may include comments by or about Control, and recommendations for form and administration of future exercises. The entire exercise is expected to end no later than 5:00 p.m. on Saturday.


  • Understand the crisis and its impact on the immediate and long term interests of your team's country
  • Develop a country strategy to respond to the crisis
  • Assess effects upon national security interests of your country team as well as other parties to the crisis
  • Identify specific actions to be taken in resolving or limiting crisis.
  • Plan for contingencies; anticipate reactions of other parties to the crisis.
  • Enter negotiations with other teams only after deciding what to negotiate about
  • Implement your strategy as quickly as possible
  • Reassess your strategy as the simulation unfolds